I’m Ania, the more charming part of Hitch-Hikers Handbook ;)
I’m a Polish girl, teaching English in Spain. When I’m off work I’m a hitchhiker, blogger and photographer.
I’m a language & culture buff always on the lookout for quirky facts and interesting things to learn about the way people live and express themselves around the world. I can speak Polish, English and Spanish, and at some point in my life I was also able to get my point across in German and French, but hey, use it or lose it, as they say.
I’m also a specialist in ultra-cheap living and travelling. I could live off canned goods and bread for weeks :)
I love trying my hand at new things; at the moment I’m learning Russian and travel video making, so if you have any tips for me, please get in touch!
I’m a backgammon addict, culinary aficionado and a beginner swimmer.
I hate spiders, shopping and pretentiousness.
Do you want to know more about me? Go ahead:
I was born in communist Poland, although my memories don’t really go as far back. What I call my hometown is a rather big industrial grayish city in southern Poland, without doubt not a tourist destination. Some would maybe call it a concrete jungle, but I spent there the rather happy days of my childhood and early adulthood. I also did there my MA in psychology and sociology, bloody hard 6 years, if you ask me.
I started travelling relatively early, bitten by the same travelling bug as my mother, who hadn’t really had that many opportunities to leave the country before I was born, so she started travelling with me when I was still quite little. I did my first lonely escapade in the age of twenty when I borrowed a friend’s tent and decided to travel around Norway for 3 weeks. Back then I didn’t speak good English, didn’t have much money and didn’t even know what backpacking was, but one day I packed my bag full of canned meals and without booking anything more than a coach ticket to Oslo, hit the road. After 3 weeks I was back in Poland, but I was convinced it was just the beginning of my travels. It turned out to be quite an important and life changing trip, on the back of which I decided to take a year off university and go and live in London a year later.
Before moving to London, there was another trip. It was Norway again, for I was (and still am) in love with its coarse northern landscape. It was a motorbike trip across the Arctic Circle and on to Lapland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and back to Poland. Three weeks, seven countries and 7500 km on a pillion.
In London I worked as a waitress in Soho, polishing my English and saving money for another trip. Quite by chance the next trip was Japan, my first solitary trans-continental travel. However, if you are a girl travelling on her own, you are bound to meet and be surrounded by other people, who are always strangely attracted to your girlish boldness.
So I was never entirely alone. In Japan I met some lovely people and quite made up my mind that this is exactly what I want to do in life. Travel.
I was back in Poland again, trying to finish my university, but dreaming of further and more adventurous travels. I already knew what backpacking was and did some short trips to other European countries (Ukraine, Czech Republic, France). I just couldn’t get travelling out of my system.
In summer 2007, I went on my Western Balkans trip, which I started in Serbia and was planning to travel across Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, and then through Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia and back to Poland). That obviously never happened because I met Jon. It was in Skopje, Macedonia. I was sitting at a table, outside the hostel (where both of us were staying), enjoying the evening and chatting to some people, when Jon and his (now our mutual friend) Laura decided to join us. I seem to remember he didn’t interest me in the slightest that evening. I thought him to be rather arrogant and his hideous white hat didn’t help to build a good first impression. Besides, for some reason, I was convinced he was gay.
Only the following day, when we spent some time together, did I realise he was a good laugh and a good companion. And it became quite obvious he wasn’t gay either.
The three of us, Jon, Laura and I, decided to travel together to Ohrid, a beautiful town in south-eastern Macedonia, on the shore of Lake Ohrid, one of the oldest and deepest lakes in Europe. It was an absolutely stunning place and we were staying in a hostel, run by a laid back young Finnish guy, which became our inspiration and the beginning of a long-standing dream of opening a hostel ourselves. We were really having a good time together, in consequence of which I never managed to follow my itinerary and never went to Albania. Instead we went to Bulgaria and then to Istanbul from where Jon and I decided to cross the Black Sea on a Russian cargo ship and went to Crimea. We crossed Ukraine and went to Poland where we spent some good times with my friends in Polish mountains before Jon went on with his trip across central Europe.
After that, we managed to meet once more, when he came from Prague, to meet me in the Czech-Polish border town of Cieszyn. It was then he decided to move to Poland and our relationship started to bloom.
I had three years of uni left, so we knew we were stuck in Poland for that time. We had to figure out how to get through it, without going mad, as our travelling bug was still nipping hard at us. The following summer we went to work in Norway for three months, as it was a pretty good way to get some easy cash just by waiting tables in a hotel. We had amazing crew and saved some money for our next trip to Southeast Asia.
After living in Norway, I got a scholarship and went for Erasmus to Toulouse in France, while Jon, having a good teaching job in Poland, continued to live in my home town. I learnt some French, met some good people and was back, in what seemed to me, in the blink of an eye.
The Southeast Asia trip was our first longish travel that took almost 15 weeks, which we spent travelling through Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. And it was when we started to hitch-hike, inspired by our amazing couchsurfing host Ang Huah. It was a totally new quality of travelling for us, during which we encountered indescribable human kindness and felt the wind of adventure.
In 2010 I finished my second master’s and we were free, we could go anywhere we wanted.
We went to Barcelona. In summer that year we did our CELTA teaching certificates and went for a short hitchhiking and couchsurfing trip round Poland, so as to pay the last tribute to it. When we arrived in Barcelona, we had no jobs and no money, so we surfed some couches to get by till we found something. It was a really hard knock life that month, without a permanent place to stay, without anything certain and with only one white job interview shirt each. We managed to survived though, and have been happily living in Barcelona since then.
In summer 2011 we went for another long hitch-hiking trip across the Caucasus, Turkey and Greece, after which the idea of writing this website started to sprout in our heads.
In the subsequent years we have developed as hitchhikers and travel bloggers and our passion for these two things has grown incessantly. In summer 2012 we hitch-hiked across the Iberian Peninsula, improving our Spanish and understanding of the region; while in 2013 we thumbed the Balkans, drinking rakija and discovering the youngest countries in Europe.
This year we are preparing for the longest hitch-hike we have yet to execute and we are going to give up our jobs in order to travel through Russia, Mongolia, China, Central Asia and Iran. Join us as we discover these new and distant lands and cover over 25,000 km by thumb during our trip “From Iran to Europe – the Long Way Home aka the Hitchhhiking-Cultural Relay“…